FLOWER ARRANGING Why we can all benefit from learning a new skill.
The prospect of being a beginner can seem intimidating, but learning a new skill from scratch can bring you more confidence, motivation and happiness, says Marie Parry
Thirty minutes into my rst oristry class, I had that lightbulb moment – this is what I was supposed to be doing! I’d signed up for the class a couple of weeks earlier, bored with the o ce job I had been doing for 15 years, feeling drained of energy and wondering what I was doing with my life. I had always had this little dream of being a orist tucked away in the back of my mind, but it seemed such an impossibility that I’d never given it serious thought. It had been so long since I had learned anything new, but when
I saw the ower arranging workshop being advertised I jumped at the chance to take part, relishing the opportunity to escape from the routine of my city life for a few days.
“Workshops help us to learn skills far beyond the activity taught,” says Amber Lort-Phillips, organiser of The Big Retreat Wales. “These range from a sense of community and the con dence that builds from learning something new, to meeting new friends and staying in touch with old ones,” she explains. My oristry workshop did just that. It was inspiring to step out of normal life for a while and to do something more physical, creative and connected to nature.
It’s so easy to become disconnected from the natural world when you spend your time sitting in front of a computer for nine hours a day in a fast-paced, city environment. Going on a little adventure to learn something new with other like-minded people in the beautiful North Wales countryside was a real tonic.
Fast-forward ve years and I’m back in the classroom – but this time around I’m the one teaching the workshop. That rst oristry class eventually led me on a journey to changing my career and moving out of the city – but it doesn’t have to be that drastic for everyone!
When I started teaching, I hoped that everyone would leave my classes with a sense of achievement at learning new techniques and creating beautiful ower arrangements, but I was really surprised at some of the feedback I received – people were getting so much more out of the workshops. Many walked in feeling nervous and unconvinced that they would be able to make the arrangement we would be working on, only to leave feeling more con dent, happy and motivated.
For some, it was about learning a new skill, for others it was just an opportunity to do something for themselves. Some people lived alone and came along for the chance to make friends – one lady hadn’t spoken to another person for two days – and I get plenty of mums coming along who are desperate for a laugh and some adult conversation. Paula, a farmer and mum of an energetic toddler, burst into tears in her rst class because it was the rst time in a long time that she’d been able to drink a warm cup of tea. She told me that it really put a spring in her step for days afterwards.
“I’ve decided to try ower arranging because I enjoy looking at owers and want to learn a new skill,” Sian explained at her rst workshop. She’s now a regular attendee. “It’s become so much more than that for me,” she says. “I really enjoy being in my own bubble, not being bothered by anyone. I use it to clear my mind from anything else going on in life, and feel so relaxed after class.”
Sian, who works with disengaged children, likes to share her experience with others too. “I recently used my new skills with the children at my school when I taught them how to make a hand-tied bouquet – it was so satisfying seeing them pleased with their creations and I was proud of myself for being able to show them how to do it.”
Being around owers has its own bene ts. Organic Blooms is a social enterprise based just outside of Bristol, UK, that runs a series of workshops on growing owers and ower arranging. Jo Wright, its founder, strongly believes in the therapeutic e ects of owers and their positive impact on our wellbeing. “There’s a lot of research on this topic that explores our connection to nature as a species,” she explains. It was rst suggested by Darwin that our survival depends upon owering plants, and in 1993, biologist and researcher Edward Osborne Wilson took this one step further with his biophilia hypothesis, suggesting that humans actually evolved to be intrinsically linked to our green environment. “As society has changed, we have moved on from our dependence upon nature,” says Jo, “but we still have an emotional response to a green, natural environment and it makes us feel a great sense of relief, calm and emotional restoration.”
Emma, a busy factory worker, feels this connection with nature: “Walking into a room lled with the fresh scent of owers, knowing this is my time to immerse myself in something I truly love is a feeling that’s hard to beat!” She has now been to many workshops. “I’d most de nitely recommend it as the perfect way to take time for yourself, and it’s great to be surrounded by like-minded people who are learning alongside you, too.”
I might be biased, but I think ower arranging really is for everyone. You don’t need experience to come along to a workshop – just an appetite to try something new. But whether you’re creating oral arrangements, learning to whittle a wooden spoon or trying your hand at calligraphy, a workshop is the perfect way to watch your skills and wellbeing grow.